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God's Invitation

We have all received multiple invitations to various celebrations over the years. When we receive an invitation, we think about it and decide whether or not we want to attend. There are times when we decide we will attend, but at the very last minute we change our minds. There are times when we also decide that we will not attend the function and then we change our minds and attend. Over the years, I have been in situations where I have had to make such decisions. A couple of months ago, I had to cancel an opportunity to watch a baseball game. That was actually the second invitation for this because I had to cancel and reschedule the first invitation earlier.

It isn’t always pleasant to cancel an invitation that we have already made a decision to honor. Although it takes the graciousness of the inviter to accept that life does happen, and because life happens, we need to make adjustments. The idea of life happening reminds me of this popular aphorism: “Man proposes, God disposes.” This tells of the limitations of people and the unlimited boundless power of God to interrupt even the plans of every person. Call God’s interruptions as invitations, if you will, for in many ways that’s what they are.

Listen to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s thoughts about God’s interruptions in his book Life Together:

“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with more important tasks….It is a strange fact that Christians, and even ministers, frequently consider their work so important and urgent that they will allow nothing to disturb them. They think they are doing God a service, but actually, they are disdaining God’s “crooked yet straight path.”

One of the stories that comes to mind when I think about God’s holy interruption is the story of Mary. A young maiden living her life, looking forward to being with her husband Joseph, and raising a family with him. She knew she was going to be a carpenter’s wife. She knew her lot was cast - her life was going to be all too similar to the many women that she had grown to know. They, too, lived a life of peasants, but of faithful peasants.

But then God invited her to participate in something magical, mysterious, and confounding - that was God’s holy interruption, which in itself is an invitation.

Her husband Joseph was no different. He, too, had his life interrupted by God when God invited him to participate in Mary’s life and not to walk away from her because of her pregnancy. He didn’t sign up to be Jesus’ caretaker; he signed up to marry Mary. He was looking forward to being a husband to Mary and raising a family with her, and then all of a sudden, this invitation came. He, too, refuses to walk away from the invitation, for as disruptive as the interruption may have been, Joseph doesn’t walk away from God because he understood God’s invitation.

This is the principle - we don’t get to choose who God works through. It is God who chooses who God wants to work through.

Understanding this principle makes for an easier embrace of our individual roles in the life of the community that God has given us. And to be an integral part of the community is to ask yourself, what kind of community is this? What does it tell us about the nature of God? Who and what are we in the presence of God? These are heavy questions that cry for our attention.

I believe that God invites each of us into God’s redeeming life, and this invitation is given life within the context of a community. God's invitation is often an interruption to our lives because we don’t necessarily ask for it, but God stretches the hand and invites us anyway. And when God interrupts our lives with an invitation, we have no option but to see ourselves as a means of grace in the life of people. More than that, we also have to think about how we are shaped and changed by the very same invitation - through the extent to which the invitation makes us work on ourselves. And to work on ourselves is key!

As we move closer to the Christmas holidays, I am reminded of the many ways in which we are invited, or of the many ways in which God interrupts our lives with an invitation. Yes, you may have a lot to take care of - you may be busy with work or other things. But God invites you, nonetheless. God is inviting us to see God's handiwork all around us, in our conversations, in ourselves, and especially in serving those in need.

God knows you are a busy person, and that is precisely why God invites you today and always. God has sent an invitation to you, asking you not only to RSVP but to show up. And oftentimes, that's all that is required of us - to show up.

This Christmas, I am reminded of those who may be lonely and might need an invitation to a Christmas dinner. If you want to invite a parishioner to celebrate Christmas with you, please don’t hesitate to let me know. We all need a holy interruption to make our Christmas come alive.

Remember, the incarnation was made possible because Mary and Joseph said "Yes" to God’s invitation - an invitation that was also an interruption in their lives.

Are you ready to have your life be interrupted by God’s invitation?

This Christmas, make yourself available for God’s invitation, for you will be amazed at the surprises God has in store for you. 



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